The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
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CNN: Obama signals U.S. support for protesters after Mubarak's speech
President Barack Obama signaled clear support for protesters who have convulsed Egypt, saying Thursday night that "in these difficult times, I know that the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America." In a White House statement following a previously unscheduled meeting of Obama with this national security team, the president called President Hosni Mubarak's speech earlier in the night that announced he would hand over presidential authority to his vice president but remain in office both confusing and insufficient. "The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," Obama said in the statement, later adding that the Egyptian government "must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity."
CNN: Conservative conference rolls out presidential hopefuls
Potential Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Sen. John Thune, Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Ron Paul all get their chance Friday to address the annual Conservative Political Action Conference - a gathering of more than 10,000 GOP activists from across the country. The list of speakers for the three-day meeting is a virtual "Who's Who" of GOP presidential politics.
Roll Call: Romney, Pawlenty Assembling Hill Teams for 2012
Likely Republican presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are quietly but aggressively wooing Members of Congress for endorsements and political support in campaigns that have yet to officially take flight. The field of potential GOP candidates is crowded. But Minnesota’s Pawlenty and Massachusetts’ Romney appear to be among the most active in recruiting Members’ support. Each former governor has a small team on the ground in Washington, D.C. The team responsibilities include building the foundation for extensive backing among Congressmen and Senators, particularly those who serve in the early primary states, once their candidacies become official.
CNN: Kyl will retire
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, will not seek re-election for a 4th Senate term, according to two GOP sources familiar with his decision. Kyl is now the 5th senator to announce he will leave the Senate. His departure will leave vacant a powerful spot in the Senate GOP leadership, and opens new speculation about the future of Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota. Thune is contemplating a run for president, but now has the chance to move up and become the Assistant Republican leader, or GOP Senate Whip, if he decides to stay. A Thune source tells CNN he will make his decision by the end of this month.
CNN: Republican says government shutdown possible, as House GOP work to bridge divisions
A top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee says that the fight to cut spending could lead to a government shut down. "I know that that's not something leadership wants to do. Is it a possibility? Yes, it is a possibility, but we're going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen," Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, told reporters off the House floor Thursday. Simpson, who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee, is the highest ranking Republican to go that far in suggesting a government shut down could happen.
CNN: Paul issues blunt economic course
Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul issued an economic call to arms Thursday, laying out the steps he said America must take to "avoid financial ruin." Paul said the country needs to take a "long and hard look" at the military budget, address entitlement reform and abolish the department of education. He also said the proposal by House Republicans to freeze spending at 2008 levels is not enough to address the national debt. "It's too little, it's not enough, it's too timid and we must be bold," Paul said to an energetic crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
CNN: Sens. Stabenow, Snowe added to 'Tea Party Target List'
Still swaggering after its recent electoral successes, the Tea Party movement appears to be growing more emboldened as it tries to blaze a path to power. One new bold move: An activist group is publicly parading a list of lawmakers the group is determined to oust from office. On Thursday, the Tea Party Express added two more names to its "2012 Tea Party Target List" – Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.
CNN: NRA leader: 'Government policies are getting us killed'
"Government policies are getting us killed" and the shootings in Tucson revealed the failure of government, said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Thursday. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), LaPierre said government has failed with "laws, lies, and lack of enforcement." CPAC is the largest annual gathering of conservative activists and this year is particularly notable as it has become a cattle-call of potential GOP presidential candidates. "If Tucson taught us anything it taught us this: Government failed," LaPierre said. "And when they tell you that a ban on assault weapons can make you safer, don't you buy it, not one second, because it's a lie. Their laws don't work, their lies aren't true. By its laws and lies and lack of enforcement, government policies are getting us killed."
CNN: Giffords was contemplating Senate run
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, had been contemplating a run for Senate before she was shot last month, Democratic sources confirm to CNN. One Democratic congressman tells CNN he talked to Giffords about it before the shooting, and says she was "very interested in the possibility of running for the Senate." This congressman, who did not want to speak for the record about private conversations with Giffords, tells CNN that she was considering a Senate run even if Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, had decided to seek re-election. Kyl announced Thursday he will not run for a 4th Senate term.
CNN: Arizona countersues federal government over border security
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced Thursday her state has filed a countersuit against the federal government, seeking the authority to implement its own border security efforts. "Security and border control is by far the number one issue right now in Arizona," Brewer said at a news conference. "Illegal immigration is costing us a billion dollars, a billion dollars a year to maintain the level we're at and the federal government sits by and does nothing." Homeland Security Department spokesman Matt Chandler called Arizona's court claim a "meritless" one that "does nothing to secure the border."
CNN: Last day on the job for Obama spokesman Gibbs
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs steps down from the post Friday, after two years as President Barack Obama's top spokesman. Jay Carney, the current communications director for Vice President Joe Biden, will succeed him at the podium. Gibbs announced his decision to leave in January. Gibbs called it a "remarkable privilege" to serve the president. But he said he wants to "step back a little bit and recharge some" after four years of campaigning and a hard-fought first half of the Obama administration - "probably the busiest years that Washington and the White House have seen in a couple of decades."
The Hill: Watchdog wants ethics probe of members who sleep....in their offices
Members of Congress who sleep in their offices during the week could be in for a rude wake-up call. On Thursday, the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate the more than 30 House members who regularly bunk in their offices, on the grounds that they are misusing official resources. "House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. "If members didn't want to find housing in Washington, they shouldn't have run for Congress in the first place." A complaint letter dated Thursday from Sloan to OCE's acting staff director raised the possibility of a number of violations stemming from the practice, including tax code violations and breaches of House rules.
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CNN: Man convicted in Chandra Levy killing to be sentenced
Ingmar Guandique, who was found guilty of murder in the 2001 death of Washington intern Chandra Levy, will be sentenced in D.C. Superior Court on Friday morning. Levy, a 24-year-old California native, was in Washington working as an intern for the Bureau of Prisons when she was last seen on May 1, 2001. Her skull was found over a year later, on May 22, 2002, in Washington's Rock Creek Park. But police didn't arrest Guandique until February 2009. He had been serving a 10-year sentence for attacking two other women in the park and had reportedly spoken about killing Levy.
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CNN: Protesters continue calls for Mubarak's resignation
Anti-government chants rang out in Cairo's Tahrir Square as protesters streamed in Friday morning for an 18th day of demonstrations demanding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Protesters continued calls for an end to the leader's nearly 30-year rule. In a highly anticipated speech Thursday night, Mubarak clung to the presidency but said he would "delegate powers" to Vice President Omar Suleiman, according to the country's constitution. But the president still retains the ability to ask for amendments to the constitution and dismiss parliament.
CNNMoney: IMF calls for dollar alternative
The International Monetary Fund issued a report Thursday on a possible replacement for the dollar as the world's reserve currency. The IMF said Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, could help stabilize the global financial system. SDRs represent potential claims on the currencies of IMF members. They were created by the IMF in 1969 and can be converted into whatever currency a borrower requires at exchange rates based on a weighted basket of international currencies. The IMF typically lends countries funds denominated in SDRs. While they are not a tangible currency, some economists argue that SDRs could be used as a less volatile alternative to the U.S. dollar.
CNN: China spends $1 billion to tackle drought
China's government will invest $1 billion to combat a three month drought crippling the country's north. The worst drought in six decades threatens to ruin China's winter harvest, the world's largest producer of wheat. To combat it, China's government plans to spend around 6.7 billion yuan ($1.02 billion) to divert water to affected areas and irrigation facilities according to the state news agency, Xinhua.
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com
CNNMoney: Mortgage rates break 5%
It's time to say hello to 5% loans. The national average interest for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage surpassed 5% for the first time since May 2010, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey. During the week ending Feb. 11, rates averaged 5.05%. That factors in an average of 0.8 points in fees that the average borrower paid to lower his or her rate. And rates quoted by Bankrate.com - which look at loans not backed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac - spiked to nearly 5.25% in the past week. (This index has been popping under and over 5% since early December.)
In Case You Missed It
CNN's Dan Lothian reports on White House reaction to the shifting leadership in Egypt.
Freshman Sen. Rand Paul offers suggestions for spending cuts and fires up the CPAC crowd for the 2012 election.
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